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Dadvertising in 2011 – A New Hope
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We like to check in on the state of “dadvertising” often. Coming out of the holiday season, one where advertisers typically hope to use the theme of family to trick you into buying their products, we thought we’d share some of the commercials we’d seen and weigh-in on how dads are looking in commercials.

I don’t want to blow the surprise ending for you, but dads are lookin’ okay. Things might be turning up for dadvertising – and though there’s still a long way to go before dads are looking like smart consumers on television, we’re pleased to say that it’s not all bad.

We’re not all smiles yet. We told you about a bunch of brands that still don’t quite get it – including past articles about Ragú and Yoplait. We highlighted a good commercial by Oreo, and even took comical pot shots at the Forever Lazy. What we’ve found is that brands are starting to “get it,” and the ones that don’t are slowly figuring it out.

 

Baskin-Robbins

Just when we thought that the classic image of the father operating off of childlike impulse was gone, Baskin-Robbins is here to remind you that fathers are just big kids.

I can’t find their commercial anywhere online, and Baskin-Robbins ignored my requests on Twitter. I even reached out to their PR company, Schneider PR, and got nothing back. And, well, that’s alright.

The commercial featured a mother laying in bed, when all of the sudden, a voice comes from the baby monitor next to her. Long story short, it’s the father and son in another room, and the father is trying to subliminally trick the wife into buying Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream Cake Bites. While most people would think this commercial is harmless and humorous, it’s an example of the father being another one of the kids. It’s also conceptually odd – why can’t this father go and buy the Ice Cream Cake Bites on his own? Does he not have his own money? Does he not have enough equal pull in the household to say “hey wife, you know what I’m in the mood for? Ice cream cake bites from Baskin-Robbins. I’m going to go pick some up.” There, Baskin-Robbins, I just wrote a commercial for you. Not virally-catchy, but at least it doesn’t make dad look like a child.

It’s a shame, too – the Cake Bites look incredible. In lieu of the commercial, here’s a picture of them:

Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream Cake Bites, probably like frozen sex in your mouth.

The real shame is that since Baskin-Robbins believes that fathers are children without their own money, we just might not be able to find the time to pick any up.

 

Clorox

Clorox, god bless them, didn’t just feature one father in their latest commercial – they featured two (three if you count the one in the background walking by):

But we’re left wondering if this is a positive dad image or just the same old comical misandry where even when a father is doing something parentally right, he doesn’t have the capacity to do it completely right. I mean, emotionally, this commercial’s a roller-coaster for an involved dad. First, you see two dads at the park with their kids. The dads have babies strapped to their chests – which is awesome. But the one dad is talking about getting his car fully-loaded, which is your first tip-off that this commercial is not dad-friendly. Then, fully-loaded-dad says “not now pal” to his kid so he can keep talking about his car – which is the exact image fathers are trying to erase in mass media.

And by the time the two dads are cluelessly smelling the babies, real fathers are thinking that they just got stabbed in the back. After being teased by Tide’s offerings earlier this season, I’m beginning to think that laundry commercials featuring fathers are still more for moms than dads.

 

Chevrolet

It’s been a big year of good news for Chevy in the dadvertising realm. First, the newest commercial to hit television, for the Chevy Silverado:

Sure, the kid in the commercial lays it on a little thick, and halfway through, you kind of “know where it’s going,” but it’s still a simple commercial that celebrates fatherhood without making anyone look the fool. Even if it’s a little emotionally heavy-handed, this commercial does a good job of not going down the construction-worker route. We never know what the real father was doing in his truck – but we know what the son thinks dad was doing. Is this too vague for a car commercial? Not necessarily; it’s not like anyone ever watches a ton of bricks fall into the bed of a truck in a commercial and runs out to get the truck based on that kind of explicit bravado.

Chevrolet won big earlier this year – both in a nod from us (last example in article), and in a survey about fathers dominating the carpool lane. Titled “Rise of the Dadmobile,” it chronicles the shift from the image of large-occupancy vehicles being “soccer mom” cars to “dadmobiles”:

Though I could have done without the line about dads just wanting a car that doesn’t question their masculinity, I agree and support the rest of the sentiments in the video. It’s great to see cross-overs dominating huge SUVs like Chevy’s own Suburban.

One of the men from the video, Mark Clawson, Chevrolet’s Traverse Marketing Manager, spoke candidly to me at the GM “Proving Grounds” during a Chevrolet Traverse press event. Clawson wanted to talk to me specifically about fathers and advertising since I’d mentioned the importance of fathers in advertising. He mentioned that after a not-so-awesome commercial from the past, GM intended to play things more straight, and the new Traverse commercials are the product of that thinking.

Coincidentally, I had dinner with a bunch of GM folk at this event, and sat right next to Terry Woychowski, VP of Global Vehicle Program Management at GM. According to him, catering to fathers isn’t just a marketing move – it’s something the company takes very seriously. According to both Woychowski and Clawson, family, particularly fathers, are important – for personal reasons. Woychowski had almost lost his son in a car accident while driving home one day – and he promised himself that he’d be involved in making cars into which he was comfortable putting his family. Clawson has kids as well (you can see them in the Dadmobile video), and making cars is a personal thing for families. It’s no longer a “man’s decision” or a “woman’s decision.” It’s a family decision, and that’s precisely why they’d invited me and other father bloggers out to see their company and the process they go through when evaluating a car.

I can’t wait to see what else General Motors has up their sleeves for fathers in 2012.

 

Vicks

What do you get when you mix a brand with a late-night tender moment between an NFL player and his sick kid? A winning recipe for Vicks. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees became the first father-figure in over 100 years to be featured as the primary caregiver in a Vicks ad. That’s huge. Take a look at the commercial:

What’s even more huge is that Drew Brees own son, Baylen, was in the ad with him. Brees said that since his own son was in the commercial it made the opportunity to be Vapo Rub’s first father “more special.”

The commercial does everything right: it’s simple, fast, doesn’t hammer into you that Brees is a quarterback by showing you footage of him in a game. It features his own son, shows a father and son cuddling without making it humorous (dad falling out of kid’s bed or getting kicked in the junk), and best of all – it’s wordless. Sometimes the most powerful thing a brand can say is nothing at all. While literally anything Brees would have said would cheapen the sentiment, the powerful silence of the commercial (aside from little coughs and giggles) really drives home the reality of the scene.

“Vicks believes that both mothers and fathers play an equally important role in the health of the family unit,” said Andy Cipra, Vicks North American Brand Manager in a press release. “Drew Brees is known for his close relationship with his family, which made the decision to make Brees the first VapoDad a natural one.”

Vicks, we should mention, is a Proctor & Gamble brand, who also owns the Tide family of products we spoke about recently.

 

Hallmark

Hallmark’s always been a company that knows how to tug on heartstrings. That’s why it was no different when they released the following commercial just in time for the holidays. In it, a young military father receives a gift from his son – a recordable Charlie Brown book:

Even if you’re not in the military, this commercial gets you. A young dad at war, getting a present that you usually see a kid getting – it’s a powerful commercial, and a great depiction of a father in advertising. It even forgives when you go to the Hallmark website and in the descriptions of the book, they use the words “One more book, mom” as a heading. Can’t win them all, can we?

 

And So…?

Are dads getting equal treatment in commercials yet? No. But the awareness that fathers are willing (and sometimes circumstantial) caregivers is out there. The Huffington Post‘s Lisa Belkin talked about it recently in an article called “The Year of the Dad?” In it, she ponders whether 2011 was indeed the year of the dad, and what the implications are for both mothers and fathers. And though I (often) find Belkin’s lack of faith in men off-putting, I think she summarized it perfectly by saying:

And yet, change is born of new norms. If you see something often enough, it becomes what you expect to see. The more we see fathers staying home with children, whatever their reasons, the more accepted it becomes for fathers to be at home with children. Dads who are clearly involved, whether by choice or by circumstance, lead us to eventually assume that’s just what Dads do. The more men are “regular” caregivers, the more they will be perceived as such — even presumed to be such — and the freer they will be to take on that role.

So, whether you’re declaring 2011 the “year of the dad,” or you’re just keeping your eyes open for more positive role-fathers in the media, you should be (for the most part) pleased. We’ve still got some way to go as fathers, but some of that is just a numbers game. Naturally, fathers that are already home and model parents are outraged that they’re looked at as the exception to the rule – but, sadly, they still are. Society must remember, however, that no matter how marginal they perceive involved fathers to be, they still deserve equal respect and representation. Those two things – respect and representation will breed more – and as Belkin mentioned, it will make fathers feel more free to take on the role.

I’m looking forward to 2012 as a great year for dadvertising.

9



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Author: Zach Rosenberg View all posts by
is married and has one son. You can also find his writing on The Good Men Project and The Huffington Post, and HLN. He is an avid gamer, rides unicorns, and loves rainbows.
  • http://raulcolon.net Raul Colon

    Zach, 

    Great review.. I did not know of the Baskin robbins and Clorox will keep an eye out after reading @cc_chapman:twitter ‘s post on Ragu we boycotted Ragu in the household. 

    It is also key to recognize those brands that are not forgetting about dads. Great post! 

    • http://www.8bitdad.com Zach Rosenberg

      Thanks! We do a lot of blasting brands for screwing up, so I like to give some credit where due – especially if getting the word out about good brands encourages advertisers to make more good dad ads!

      • http://raulcolon.net Raul Colon

        Zack, neat.. just let me know if we can help in any way.. I shared via our Google Plus Stream and other networks for our parenting blog. Great job once again! 

        • http://www.8bitdad.com Zach Rosenberg

          Awesome – sharing is caring! Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/katgordon Katherine M. Gordon

    Zach, this is a terrific wrap-up of the year and one I will share with my agency’s followers. We specialize in marketing to moms and Dads are an increasingly important part of the equation. We also highlight campaigns that hit — or miss — the mark when marketing to moms and I have taken several brands to the mat for dissing Dads as a cheap shot to try to connect with moms. Smart marketers know that capable, involved Dads are not only the norm these days, but are precisely what moms love to see celebrated.

    • http://www.8bitdad.com Zach Rosenberg

      Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!

      I’m always conflicted when talking about advertising. Am I being too
      sensitive? Am I being too picky? Would I have approved of a commercial
      where the mom looked dumb? But I think about it – and there’s ways to
      make both parents look good, or if you’re just marketing toward one
      parent, ways to make them feel powerful without putting the other down.

      I appreciate the visit, the read and the referral! We cover ads and commercials often, so please check back in with us!

  • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

    Great overview! Why aren’t we starring in any of these?

    • http://www.8bitdad.com Zach Rosenberg

      I’ve toyed with the idea of re-shooting dad un-friendly commercials as a humorous “fixed that for you” to the companies. Wonder if that’d go viral?

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